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    From: (Jms at B5)
 Subject: Re: ATT JMS: Writing and visualization.
    Date: 4/7/1996 7:40:00 AM  

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"You were talking about the process of writing a B5 episode. You said
(IIRC) that you visualize a scene in your mind, get all the movements,
dialogue, camera angles, etc. locked down just so inside your head, and
then simply transcribe what you see."

That's correct. I play it like a movie in my head.

"Do you use this approach for novels and stories, or just for TV? Since
TV is a visual medium, I can imagine visualization working
beautifully...but novels tend to focus on the internal, the way people
work. We get to see more than just what they look and sound like--we get
to see inside them, rather than _deducing_ what's inside them from what we
see and hear. I ask because I've been trying your visualization approach
in my own writing, but I worry that it comes out like a transcript of a TV
episode--everything is vivid on the page, but it all seems so
externalized. I feel like I'm missing opportunities for delving because
they don't show up on my two senses, and thus don't get included in the
blocking in my head."

I still visualize the scene, but I do it differently in a work of prose.
The key there is to see it *from the perspective of the character*. In a
TV script you're the omniscient camera. I do a little of that, just to
know the movements, but the rest of the time I spend behind the
character's eyes. How does the room look? Can I smell the woodburning
fireplace from here? Is the room hot or cold? Where am I? You have to
use all your senses in a novel.

"How the heck do you _remember_ everything that passes in front of your
mind's eye? I get a scene going in my head, know the characters are
_here_, then move _here_, and the bathtub is _here_, and I take
notes...but then, when it actually comes to sitting down at the keyboard
and writing it, I discover that half of the little fillets have vamoosed.
("Now what was I thinking about a llama?") If I took enough notes to
capture them all, the note-taking would be equivalent to the
story-writing, and I'd have the same problem. do you do it?
Train your mind to be more like a steel trap and less like a steel sieve?
A new and different kind of note-taking? Hooked on Phonics? (For that
matter, how do you take notes? What does a sheet of note paper look like
when you're done with it?)"

I don't actually take notes on scenes. If a great line comes to me for a
scene I'm working on later in the day, I'll rip out a PostIt and slap it
on my monitor, but that's about it. Sometimes I'll write down the act
breaks on a sheet of paper, but even that I haven't done in a long while;
I usually just sit down at the keyboard and start rolling the "film"
through my head, no outline, just a sense of where I have to go.

It's just a mental quirk; how does an actor remember every line of
dialogue in a play, plus all the stage movements, prop locations, stunts,
and the rest? I've always had a very good visual memory. If I go to your
house once, I can usually remember the layout years later. Take me to a
strange city, drive me across town and drop me off, and as long as it's
light, I can find my way back again on foot with very little in the way of

I was at the hotel in Manchester UK for only a couple of days for Wolf
359...but I can remember every detail of the hotel's layout: come in the
front glass door, to your right at 2:00 are steps leading down to the
restaurant. Straight ahead, steps leading up to the lobby. Check in
counter is to the left. To the right is a metal grillwork area leading to
a second lobby and the smaller conference rooms along a hall which jogs
slightly to the left. The B5 viewing room was just before the left jog.
Back in the main lobby, there are benches and chairs along the right wall,
then there's a door on the right to the dealer's room, a pair of
close-able doors to another sitting area (sofa on the left this time),
then the elevators to the rooms (left side). Turning right at the
elevators takes you to the stairs descending to another floor. Keep going
in the hall and it brings you to the main hall at the end of the hall.
White double doors. At the far end of the main hall are curtained doors
leading to the street. Additional doors to the hall are at the right
side, which can bring you back to the conference rooms. (One of the door
hinges is slightly damaged.) Four square support posts near the stage
area, and several more on the right angling around. The first time I
walked in, to check out the area and rearrange the chairs around the
posts, there were approximately 10 people seated there, on the left-ish
side of the room. More women than men. One of the men had on a grey/blue
shirt and a cap. He noticed me as I went about my business.

I picked that one because there are some Wolf-folks around here who can
verify if that's correct. But I can go back 10 years of conventions and
do the same. It's just a quirk. I *never* get lost. Once I lock onto a
place, I can go back 20 years after the fact and find everything there.
Don't know if it's training, or just a trick of genetics, but I have an
*extremely* visual memory.

I remember the look on the face of the first woman I dated when she told
me it was all over. I remember as a kid where my cat sat and looked at
me, very strangely, almost sadly, before it went out into the back yard to
pass away, there in the high grass. I remember exactly where I was
standing, the time of day, the number of people on the school yard the day
I took down the school bully because nobody *else* would (age 10). I
remember the exact shape and layout of the rose tattoo on the left wrist
of a woman I dated in college. I can remember the phone number of the
parents of another woman I dated in college by visualizing the sheet of
paper I wrote it down on because it was raining and I was at a public
phone booth and the rain smeared the numbers. I remember exactly where I
was standing, and what was going on in the background of the campus
newspaper when I learned that my friend Chris Parker -- a good man, a kind
man, a professor with the Psych Department who wore clown suits to staff
meetings to keep things in perspective -- had just been killed in a
motorcycle accident, and the gleep who said it happened because he was an
atheist and he had it coming...though I *don't* remember what happened
between that moment and the moment they peeled me off him. I'm told I
vaulted over the desk and tackled him full-on. I'll take that one on

Writers are living compilations of moments, which they reinterpret and
revisit, carving them into characters and stories. The more you can
remember, the more you can recreate how you felt, the better you can turn
around and invest those same feelings and reactions in your characters.
The problem is that all too often, we go through our lives unaware of so
much that goes on around us, we don't *pay attention* to our lives. And
we miss the moments. And in the end, the moments are all we have.


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